How to save money with your water heater

June 19, 2015

Your water heater likely accounts for a big chunk of your energy use - and your budget! But there are ways to save on both. Here are a few tips for saving money with your water heater.

How to save money with your water heater

Hot-water savers

  • Think before turning on the hot water. Will cold water suffice for rinsing dishes and washing clothes? This simple step can reduce your water heating costs up to 25 per cent.
  • Keep your thermostat setting fairly low – about 60°C (140°F), but over 55°C (131°F) to kill off bacteria. Having the water too hot is a waste of energy and means that you use more cold water to make it cooler. Lowering the temperature also reduces the risk of scalding yourself.
  • Fix a dripping hot tap. It could be wasting up to 10 bathtubs' full of hot water a month.
  • Try to avoid using hot water in short spurts throughout the day. Instead, do several jobs that need hot water at once. This way, less water is left in the pipes to go cold.
  • Take shorter showers and save up to 23 litres (six gallons) of water a minute!
  • Install tap aerators and flow restrictors. These limit the flow without reducing pressure.
  • Install a water-efficient shower-head and you could cut hot-water usage by up to half.
  • Make sure your hot-water pipes and tank are well insulated, especially if they are on outside walls. Up to half of your hot water bill is spent on reheating water that has gone cold.

Electric heaters

Traditional electric water heaters are inexpensive to buy and relatively easy to install. But running costs are high (up to six times those of a good solar system).

  • Think twice before choosing a conventional electric heater. It can emit four times as much greenhouse gas as a natural gas, electric heat pump or electric-boosted solar heater. It also emits 12 times as much as a gas-boosted solar heater.
  • If electricity is your best option, consider an electric heat pump. It extracts heat from the atmosphere and pumps it into the water tank. Though expensive to install, it is eco-friendly and economical in the long run. It uses 70 per cent less electricity than a conventional electric water heater.
  • To make further savings, connect your heat pump to a timer and set it to use off-peak energy supplies.
  • Find out if your local distributor offers rebates or incentives for installing heat-pump systems.

Star saver

Overall, a gas-boosted solar water heater is the cheapest to run and the most energy-efficient. Running costs are up to 80 per cent lower than an equivalent electric storage system. That means it should pay for itself in five to 10 years.

Buy wisely

  • Make sure you weigh up the initial cost of a water heater against ongoing running costs and its environmental impact.
  • Compare instantaneous systems, which heat on demand, with storage systems that maintain a full tank at a set temperature. Gas instantaneous systems are more efficient and economical than gas or electric storage systems.
  • Calculate what size of tank you require. If your tank is too small, you'll run out of hot water. If it's too big, you'll waste money and energy keeping unused water hot.
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